Enrollment Blog

Spring search? Yes, search. In the spring.

by Al Newell

In the old days, as enrollment professionals, we had our four seasons, and we all knew how a year unfolded. Fall was for recruiting. Winter was spent reading applications. Spring was yield season. And summer was the time to plan for the next year.

That clarity seems like a distant memory now. All of us seem to be engaging in everything, all the time, as the admission landscape becomes ever more complex.

One particular area of increasing complexity I’ve been thinking about lately is the process of introducing our institutions to high school sophomores and juniors—especially how and when schools can get access to their identity and contact information.

Responding to testing turmoil

For example, ACT’s 10th-grade-level PLAN test, historically a great source for colleges to find new names of college-bound students, has been retired without a direct replacement. Instead, ACT is going to be expanding a testing suite called Aspire, which will provide insight into college-bound students as early as the freshman year. However, Aspire’s adoption and rollout are still ongoing.

And there’s also the new, substantially retooled version of the SAT, which is scheduled to debut in March and whose launch will almost certainly have some impact on when students take the admission tests, and therefore when their names will become available to colleges.

These testing changes mean that engaging students in the junior year ought to be an even higher priority. At Royall, we advise the schools we work with to consider buying a new batch of names for their student Search campaigns in the early spring. Both ACT and SAT release new names starting in late February and continuing across the spring.

Given shifts in the testing landscape, it’s hard to predict exactly how much information will come available, but we expect that most institutions would be able to add a substantial number of new names to their campaigns.

The argument for moving quickly

We have been counseling our clients in favor of buying late-breaking batches of names for years. Evidence from analyzing student behavior in search, application and yield campaigns suggests that it’s always to the school’s advantage to initiate contact with prospective students as soon as possible.

But now, with the FAFSA timeline changes and the expected shift in the financial aid award timing, students will likely be creating their lists of colleges to apply to earlier than ever. If you can reach these students a few months earlier, it could mean the difference between a student's deciding to apply to your institution or not.

Moreover, if you already have a search campaign created and under way, adding new spring students is a modest expenditure of money and effort compared with the process of creating that campaign in the first place.

Enrollment leaders may feel that they don’t have time to be worrying about their search campaigns in the spring, of all times of the year. They’re worried about building the entering class for the next fall, getting out financial aid letters and planning their yield events. But in this dynamic market, you can’t afford to miss out on opportunities to reach students—and from experience, we know it’s worth the effort.

Get more data

To learn more about how enrollment dynamics are changing—and how schools are faring—download our latest Enrollment Trends white paper. Download the white paper.


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